Acoustic guitar pickup for sale

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Best acoustic guitar pickups 2021: pickups for every type of acoustic guitarist, from strummers to percussive players

Fitting a pickup to your acoustic guitar allows you to amplify your playing without perching in front of a microphone. Broadly speaking, there are three options when it comes to the best acoustic guitar pickups: the under-saddle piezo (which you’ll find built in to most mid-price electro-acoustics), soundboard transducer and soundhole pickup.

Each type of pickup offers a different tone, so experiment to see which suits your style of playing best. We’ve saved you some time by sampling a range of models to suit every type of acoustic guitar player.

Looking for a great Black Friday music deal? Check out our Black Friday guitar deals page for all the latest news and the best acoustic guitar pickup offers.

What is the best acoustic guitar pickup right now?

The LR Baggs Anthem Tru-Mic acoustic guitar pickup is the best all-rounder. It combines a piezo pickup with a mic to achieve more of a ‘true’ acoustic sound. In this case it’s a noise-cancelling mic mounted inside on the guitar’s bridge plate close to the guitar’s top – the primary source of its tonal character.

Americana songwriters Brian Fallon and Sturgill Simpson are two recent converts to the Anthem’s Tru-Mic charms with the Element piezo used here already highly rated too. The mic adds the crucial ingredient of helping to capture your guitar’s natural sound more effectively.

Best acoustic guitar pickups: what you need to know

The most common type of pickup on electro acoustic guitars is the piezo and can usually be found under the bridge saddle, out of sight. They pick up the vibrations of the strings and the guitar’s top at the saddle position. 

Unlike a traditional pickup with a magnetic field, they use compressed piezoelectric crystals to detect vibrations. A preamp then usually translates them before the guitar’s output – though if they’re passive there will be no preamp and the output will be lower as a result – often including EQ-shaping options for the player. 

While piezos are regarded as more ‘acoustic’ by their very nature, they can often sound much brighter than magnetic pickups (we’ll get to those soon), especially as they’re detecting vibrations where the strings are at their tightest on the guitar. So they’re articulate, but not necessarily the ‘woodiest’ sound after a preamp has boosted and compressed their character. This can lead to the dreaded ‘piezo quack’ – an overload that leads to a brittle, plastic-y character. 

More expensive pickup systems will combine a mic positioned inside the guitar with a piezo to help offset this – they’re often called mic blend systems and players can choose whether they want more or less from the mic source in their mix compared to the piezo, and vice versa. 

A soundboard transducer is a popular additional pickup for players who use percussive techniques because it is a piezo-based design that detects vibrations and can be fixed anywhere on or inside the body as required. It’ll often need some EQ tweaking to take out boomy bottom end and the more organic nature means it works better for solo performers as it can get lost in a band mix if it’s your sole source.

Electric players will recognise magnetic soundhole pickups; they use the magnetic field to capture vibrations and the way the pickup is wound affects how those vibrations are interpreted. Relatively easy to install on your guitar, they’re available in single-coil and humbucker styles with passive or active options – the latter boosting output more.

Now let's take a look at the best options. We've also sought out the best prices on the web for you.

The best acoustic guitar pickups to buy right now

1. LR Baggs Anthem

The best all-round acoustic guitar pickup system

Specifications

Price: £330/$299

Reasons to buy

+An excellent piezo with an excellent mic+Great investment if you play live regularly

Reasons to avoid

-May require professional installation

The combination of a piezo and a mic in one system sounds like the promise of the best of both worlds with warmth and clarity. And when it comes to retrofit acoustic pickups this is the closest to that dream scenario we’ve heard. The Tru-Mic technology here delivers a much more open sound than the boxy character some mic blend systems can suffer from by picking up more of the soundboard detail.

The mic is fixed three millimetres from the guitar top, while the Element piezo pickup is fitted under the bridge saddle (it’s also available to purchase separately) and the two sources can then be blended together with a mix control to suit your needs. 

2. Fishman Matrix Infinity VT

The best piezo acoustic guitar pickup system

Specifications

Price: £159/$170

Reasons to buy

+Quality build+Fishman has a great reputation+Onboard volume and tone controls 

Reasons to avoid

-Only install if you’re confident

According to Fishman, the Matrix is the world’s best-selling undersaddle pickup and the company offers a range of options now including mic blend models (around $300) plus narrow and wide saddle width options. The reason for its enduring popularity as one of the best acoustic guitar pickups is simple – it offers a fulsome and clear acoustic sound with onboard tone (this cuts mids while boosting treble and bass) and volume controls that can be stealthily positioned inside the soundhole. 

While we’d advise getting one of these installed by a repairer, it can be done yourself with the right tools and care if you feel confident enough.

3. LR Baggs M80

A great magnetic acoustic soundhole pickup option

Specifications

Price: £280/$249

Reasons to buy

+Body as well as string sensitive +Great battery life

Reasons to avoid

-Tricky to install if you don’t have a ½” diameter endpin hole 

The LR Baggs M1 stacked humbucker is a bit of a classic now, but the company’s M80 improves it in three useful ways – offering the option to switch between passive and active modes to utilise the built-in preamp, and a battery life LED meter so you’re never caught short onstage. 

More importantly, the M80 improves on the M1 Active in its enhanced body sensitivity – a huge advantage that both models have over the competition. 

The M80 includes a free-floating humbucker coil that acts as a 3D body sensor, so in addition to acting as a magnetic humbucker, it’ll also capturing more of your acoustic guitar’s character.

4. Seymour Duncan Woody SA-3 HC

The best value passive magnetic acoustic soundhole pickup

Specifications

Price: £65/$99

Reasons to buy

+Great value+Easy to remove when not needed

Reasons to avoid

-Some players might not like having the cable on the outside 

We certainly like the look of this acoustic soundhole pickup for starters – that housing is hand-polished rock maple for a very acoustic-friendly aesthetic (walnut also available). The tone is brighter and clearer than many passive magnetic models we’ve encountered too, making it a great option for your first acoustic guitar pickup. 

It’s also non-permanent, allowing you to have the output cable running outside your guitar and into a PA or amp - just fit it whenever you need to plug in. 

5. Fishman SBT-C

The best transducer pickup for classical and percussive players

Specifications

Price: £79/$100

Reasons to buy

+Simple and flexible positioning on the guitar +No batteries required

Reasons to avoid

-External EQ and volume control 

Aimed at classical guitar players but suitable for any acoustics, this soundboard transducer can be mounted on any flat surface of the guitar, or whatever stringed instrument you choose, so you can experiment with positioning to find the optimum sound.

One of the advantages here, and with most transducer pickups, is they don’t require battery power for a preamp. And this pickup will also be great if you’re using percussive techniques on your acoustic’s body similar to players like Jon Gomm and Mike Dawes. You may choose to use it as a second output alongside a magnetic or undersaddle pickup to amplify that side of your playing. 

6. DiMarzio The Black Angel

The best soundhole acoustic guitar pickup for combining with other pickups

Specifications

Price: £160/$165

Reasons to buy

+Phase switch for using with multiple pickup systems+Magnetic pickups work well with effects

Reasons to avoid

-It’s pricey for a passive pickup if you don’t need the phase feature 

Players like John Butler use dual outputs on their acoustics to blend two different pickup sounds. Percussive players can use mics or transducers alongside a piezo and soundhole pickup so their guitar bodies are sensitive to the different techniques they use. 

British acoustic virtuoso Mike Dawes’ guitar is a prime example – and it led him to develop this passive soundhole pickup alongside Larry DiMarzio and British luthier Nick Benjamin.

Because the main risk of multiple pickup sources on a guitar is going out of phase, the Black Angel has a phase switch built in to make combining with other pickups more controllable. It helps that it sounds surprisingly organic for a magnetic pickup by itself.

7. K&K Sound Pure Mini

The best passive transducer acoustic guitar pickup

Specifications

Price: £100/$99

Reasons to buy

+A great option for a more organic sound+You can fit it yourself

Reasons to avoid

-Lower output than active options

An acclaimed transducer offering good output and a warmer, full sound for a passive option with three sensors (the classical model has four) that are glued to the underside of your guitar’s bridge plate. And this area is less likely to produce feedback than fixing it to the soundboard itself. You’ll need good light and a mirror to do the work yourself but the payoff is the best passive system we’ve heard for producing a truer ‘acoustic’ tone.

K&K also produces a Pure Preamp (£100/$99) with bass, mid, treble and volume controls to give you tone-shaping capabilities. It even has a belt clip for keeping it close at hand onstage.

I'm the Guitars Editor for MusicRadar, handling news, reviews, features, tuition, advice for the strings side of the site and everything in between. Before that I worked on guitar magazines for 15 years, including Editor of Total Guitar. 

Sours: https://www.musicradar.com/news/best-acoustic-guitar-pickups

Pickup for beginners - If you are worried about damaging your shiny new acoustic guitar, then it's best to avoid drilling any holes, etc. In this case, a soundhole pickup is the best option. Loosen the strings enough to be able to move them aside for the pickup, but do not remove the bridge pins. Place the pickup in the sound hole, move it forward towards the neck, and slowly tighten the screws until you feel slight resistance.

Acoustic Pickup Buyer's Guide

placing of acoustic guitar pickup preampThe first important issue to address before you purchase a pickup is whether or not you’re willing to modify your guitar to install it. You also need to consider if you are competent enough to do the job or need someone to do it for you. Although, most guitar stores will have a professional who can do it for you for a reasonable price.

Some pickups require little to no modification. But this type of pickup might not give you the sound quality you want. Then, you can go for a more advanced pickup, but that might require extensive modification. If your guitar has sentimental value or you don't want to low its resale value, then you want to avoid any major modification. A clip-on pickup will therefore be your best option.

What to Look for When Buying an Acoustic Guitar Pickup

There are quite a few features that you need to keep an eye out for when choosing a pickup. We're going to go through each of them right now.

But, before we do, you need to decide for what reason you want the pickup.

Is it for live performances?

Do you need it for recording?

Is the pickup just for practicing at home?

Once you know what you'll need the pickup for, then move onto the next section.

Acoustic Guitar Pickup Types

There are a range of pickups on the market that all work in different ways. Let's look at the most common types.

Piezo pickups (pronounced “pee-YAY-zoh”) will almost always require modification because they are placed under your guitar's bridge. They are a type of microphone that works by converting the physical vibration of your guitars' strings into a signal using a compressed crystal.

They are generally inexpensive and sound bright. Another drawback - besides the dreaded drilling - is that they do not sound as natural as other pickups. However, they will not provide you with any feedback issues. They are also awesome at cutting through the mix, making them ideal for live performance. Piezo pickups feature a much older form of technology than magnetic pickups.

Under-saddle pickups are a variation of piezo pickups. The difference is that they are placed under the saddle rather than the bridge of your guitar. This means that your soundboard can resonate more freely, providing you with a more balanced sound.

transducer pickup for acoustic guitarThere is another type of transducer-based pickup that is called a contact pickup. They might remind you of a doctor's stethoscope. Though visually different from piezo pickups, they work in a very similar way. Both of them function in direct contact with the guitar. They both measure the pressure of the string vibrations. Then the signal is pre-amplified before it is sent as an output in the same manner as a piezo. The main difference is that they are attached to the soundboard rather than below the bridge.

This is what gives them a more natural tone than a piezo. They are, however, prone to feedback at very high volumes. Some will require modification to mount them.

Soundhole pick-ups are similar to a common electric guitar magnetic pickup. They generate a signal from the disturbance within the magnetic field. That means that they require steel strings to function. Some models allow for height adjustments to the pickups, which is also similar to those on electric guitars. Despite being very accurate, they can be perceived as sterile sounding. Then again, many offer tone adjustment so that you can equalize your tone to one that sounds more authentic. They are slightly more vulnerable to feedback than a piezo device.

In-guitar microphones are another option, although they aren't technically pickups. There are 'blended model' devices these days that combine a traditional pickup with a mic (which works with coil stacks) then blend the two signals. Some allow for control over how much of each signal is prevalent in the mix. This combats feedback issues. A great blended in-guitar mic will probably set you back a fair bit but it is well worth paying for if you plan to perform in front of large audiences.

How much does it cost to put a pickup in an Acoustic Guitar?

cost of installing acoustic guitar pickupThe overall price comes down to two main things. Firstly, your budget will determine whether you're looking at high-end or low-end models. Secondly, the type of pickup you choose will also be important.

It's always recommended to ask a professional to modify your guitar when attaching pickups to it. This is particularly true if you're attaching piezo, under saddle, or contact pickups. Of course, this will be an added expense on top of the pickups, but it's unavoidable. If you try to do this yourself, then you run the risk of destroying your guitar.

If you're just looking for a pickup to use at home, then there's no need to invest in an expensive piece of kit that will require a professional installation. For example, you can buy a clip-on model for less than fifteen bucks, which you can install yourself.

How to install a Guitar Pickup for Acoustic?

Again, this will entirely depend on the type of pickup you buy. Opting for a clip-in is the easiest route. Pickups that require taking apart your guitar, drilling, or gluing are best left to professionals.

Despite the warnings, it is a relatively simple process. If you are going to attempt to install it yourself, then we recommend practicing on a cheap acoustic. You can usually pick up a bargain at a thrift shop. You don't need to worry too much about the quality if it is essentially going to be used for practice. The main modification each typically require is to widen the endpin to a larger size with a drill bit. The hole should be large enough for running the wires through.

Most pickups that are placed internally will need to be attached to a smooth surface that has been sanded. Again, this is an easy enough job. Some need gluing while others are self-adhesive. You may need a mirror to get a good look at what is going on inside the guitar. Under-saddle pickups will require saddle and bridge removal. We highly recommend that you employ a professional to do this.

Best Sounding Acoustic Guitar Pickup?

All of the pickups on our list sound fantastic. Choosing a single product that sounds better than all the rest is difficult. Instead of picking just one, let's have a look at some of our favorites and why we like them so much.

For a simple sound enhancement, then you'll likely be best with the Fishman Matrix Infinity. This will give you a big power boost, but it might make your guitar sound slightly synthetic.

Guitarists who want the most natural and authentic tone for their guitar while a pickup is installed should choose the L.R. Baggs SL. This is a fantastic product that we can highly recommend.

Fishman Matrix Infinity acoustic pickup

If you're still unsure, we advise checking out a few YouTube video reviews, as they will allow you to listen to the pickups in action. Remember, the sound has been condensed so that it can be played via YouTube. That means that it won't be completely true to life, but it still should give you some idea of what the pickups sound like.

We also recommend going for a trusted brand. If you choose one of the products from our list, though, then we don't think you'll be disappointed.

Best Acoustic Guitar Soundhole Pickup?

If you are opting for magnetic soundhole pickup, you might want to look for one that's a humbucker, which is the same as electric guitars use. These pickups are not susceptible to picking up background hum, which is a big plus. The Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking pickup would be a good purchase if you are looking for the best soundhole pickup. It's designed in a way that ensures you never get any unwanted background hum. We think it's good enough for live performances too.

Fishman Rare Earth Humbucking acoustic guitar pickup

CLICK HERE FOR PRICE

Best Under-Saddle Pickup for Acoustic Guitar?

Our top choice would be the Fishman Matrix Infinity under-saddle piezo pickup. This is an award-winning pickup that also has a microphone built into it. It provides you with unbeatable quality, as well as well-balanced sound.

Conclusion

It's a great idea to buy a pickup for your acoustic guitar. And there are some fantastic products out there these days too, there's no reason not to experiment with this piece of equipment. You can go for anything from a blended system, like L.R. Bragg produces, to a clip-on condenser microphone.

Whatever product you choose, always make sure that they're designed to eliminate feedback. You don't want your live gig ruined by horrible feedback.

We also recommend that any pickup that requires modification should be installed by a professional. It might seem as simple as drilling a few holes or gluing a few things here and there. It's still a big risk when you mess around with your instrument. You don't want to harm it. So, pay a bit extra, and get a professional to install the pickup in your acoustic. It won't take them very long, and it's well worth it in the long run.

Of course, an expensive installation isn't required for some of the pickups on our list. If you buy a budget model, such as one that clips onto the soundhole, then you can do this yourself without any issues. These pickups will also only set you back ten or twenty bucks, so are an affordable option for amplifying your guitar.

We hope that you've found this article informative. And good luck choosing your new pickups. We're sure that it will transform your guitar for the better!

Expert Tip

If you have your heart set on installing modifications yourself, we hope you heed our advice about practicing with a throw-away acoustic. You don't want to destroy your beloved instrument. Make sure that you watch lots of online tutorials before you fetch your drill too! People experienced with DIY should still learn what to do before running the risk of destroying your instrument.

Did You Know?

The Latin origin of the word piezo shares its roots with 'piezein'. This means to press or squeeze something. This is a particularly fitting image for the description of how the electronics in a piezo work. The electric charge that accumulates in certain solids as they respond to stress applied to them is known as a piezoelectric charge.

Sours: https://musiccritic.com/equipment/guitars/best-acoustic-guitar-pickups/
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